Super Sastre stays in yellow
Carlos Sastre produced the time-trial of his life to ensure he will be crowned the Tour de France champion later today on the Champs-Elysees. The Spaniard finished last night's 53-kilometre stage from Cerilly to Saint-Amand-Montrond in 12th place, but crucially just 29 seconds behind Cadel Evans.
It leaves Sastre going into the final stage in Paris with a one minute five second lead over the Australian, which will not be beaten on the cobblestones of the French capital. The penultimate stage of the Tour had been billed as a head-to-head between Sastre the climber and Evans the time-trial expert, who had beaten his rival by over a minute in the Cholet time-trial in the first week of the race.
But Evans, who had ridden the course in the morning in preparation, looked sluggish from the outset and struggled to find a rhythm. Sastre still clocked the slower time, but he knew as he crossed the finishing line it would put a third Spaniard in as many years on the top spot at the race end, following on from Oscar Pereiro in 2006 and Alberto Contador last year. As he reached the finish Sastre, 33, whose previous best Tour finish was third behind Pereiro in 2006, produced a brief celebration, knowing he had produced a sufficiently strong ride to set up the biggest win of his career.
He said: "Winning the Tour de France is a dream come true. I suffered a lot in this time-trial because it was essential that I rode flat out. "I arrived at the Tour in the best shape of my career and what has happened is really a dream for every professional. I'm pleased to be a part of the history of the sport with this victory." The time-trial itself was once again dominated by Stefan Schumacher. The German, who won the Cholet time-trial, clocked a time of one hour three minutes and 50 seconds to give him a 21 second lead over Sastre's CSC Saxo Bank teammate Fabian Cancellara.
Kim Kirchen was just back in third while Briton David Millar, who had complained of being exhausted before the start, finished in an impressive fifth spot, a minute and a half behind Schumacher's time. But all the attention was off the stage winner and on the battle for overall race glory between Sastre and Evans, which was watched by Evans' mother, Helen Cocks, who had surprised her son by flying over from Australia to watch the stage.
However, the rigours of the mountains and keeping up with Sastre's CSC Saxo Bank team for the last three weeks, plus the pressure of the occasion, looked to get the better of Evans, 31. Bernard Kohl rode well to retain third, while the big loser in the stage was Frank Schleck, who started the stage second, but finished it in sixth. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org TV: Dubai Sports, 3.35pm
Published: July 26, 2008 04:00 AM